The No. 15th-seeded Jaguars, a team that includes seven players
from the South Valley, is in a four-team double-elimination pool in
San Mateo this weekend
GILROY — It’s necessary to understand the Gavilan baseball team’s 2009 season before one can understand — and perhaps even appreciate a little — the Rams’ 2010 campaign.
A year ago, Gavilan compiled a 3-36 overall record, 0-25 in the Coast Conference Pacific Division — a confluence of close losses in the early season, compounded with waning confidence as the season progressed.
But while this year’s campaign as a whole is not something the Rams would like to replicate in 2011, it was certainly a move forward from last season.
“We still had a pretty rough go at it this year,” said Neal Andrade, the seventh-year manager of the Gavilan College baseball team, which compiled a 9-27 overall record, 7-18 in the Pacific Division this past season.
“It wasn’t good by any means,” Andrade added. “But it was a step in the right direction, considering where we were last year.”
Among other highlights, the Rams took three games from Cabrillo College, took two of three from rival Hartnell in Salinas, and even defeated Ohlone College by a narrow 4-3 margin on April 6, a victory that sparked a four-game winning streak for Gavilan.
Ohlone, meanwhile, earned the No. 3 seed in the CCCAA playoffs, and will play in a Super-8 Regional this weekend along with other Coast Conference foes like the College of San Mateo and Chabot.
Prior to the Super-8, though, the Coast Conference boasted the postseason’s No. 1 seed (Canada College), No. 2 seed (San Mateo), No. 3 seed (Ohlone) and No. 4 seed (Chabot).
In other words, it was a stacked conference.
“Obviously, the one difficult thing is we play in arguably the toughest conference in Northern California,” Andrade said. “But we want to play in those big games. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to play the best.
“And we definitely competed, from the first game to the last game.”
Andrade was pleased to see a handful of freshmen, including Ramiro Chapa, Roberto Celestino and Live Oak High alumnus Connor Sutton, actually improve as the season progressed, despite being new to the grinds of an extended schedule.
“That’s obviously a good sign going into their sophomore years,” Andrade said.
Chapa, in fact, led the Rams at the plate with a .301 batting average — one percentage point higher than Celestino.
Meanwhile, both earned All-Coast Conference honors, with Chapa earning a second-team selection, while also sophomores Jorden Newton, Charlie Duffy and Live Oak’s Blaine Sutton earned second-team nods as well.
Sutton was part of a three-man starting rotation for the Rams — he boasted a 3.28 ERA — along with James Lafuente and Miles Sanchez, although overall relief depth may have hurt Gavilan, Andrade said.
“But those three starters gave us an opportunity to win those games,” Andrade added.
Part of the beauty of the junior college level is how quickly things can turn around for any given team, and with 14 of Gavilan’s 25-man roster possibly returning for a second year, Andrade has a strong start heading into next season.
Pitchers will be the focus in the recruiting process, as will depth at all positions in order to create competition at practice.
Freshmen Tyler Provost, for instance, who played mostly at third base at San Benito High, filled in behind the plate this season for the Rams when injuries set in, and caught every pitch of every game.
“And that was big time,” Andrade said of Provost.
“But with the turnover in JC ball, you’re always reloading, year in and year out. It’s not necessarily about the horses you have, it’s about the camaraderie you build. We showed some signs with that this year, and hopefully we can take the right step going into next year.”
SAN JOSE CITY UPDATE
The Jaguars, seeded No. 15 in the Northern California Playoffs, upset No. 1 Canada in a best-of-three Regional series two games to one last week to reach the Super Regionals.
San Jose City College (22-18), a team that includes seven players from the South Valley, is in a four-team double-elimination pool that will play at College of San Mateo this weekend. The Jaguars are scheduled to open at 11 a.m. Friday against No. 2 San Mateo (29-8-1) and will play either No. 5 Fresno (30-8) or No. 7 Sacramento (23-15) Saturday.
The championship round will be held Sunday with the winner advancing to the State Final Four held May 21-23.
It is San Jose City’s second Super Regionals appearance. The Jaguars made their first trip a year ago and were a win shy of advancing.